Work and mental health

There are all sorts of things I would like to do but can’t, because I know I don’t have the emotional resilience. It is, frequently, really frustrating. There are skills I have that I can’t always use to best effect because I can’t deal with certain kinds of situations. If there’s an aggressive tone to arguing, I won’t last long. I can’t cope with people who are controlling and like to run power-over – which does not make me easy to employ! If I need to stand up for myself, I can find I’ve got nowhere to go.

I’m fortunate in that there are a number of steady, small freelance jobs I do where I’m well insulated. I work for people who understand me, am left mostly to get on with it, and feel safe. I do some pretty good work in those contexts, too. If there’s nothing to trigger a mental health problem, I’m a good worker. I bring loyalty, dedication, willingness to go the extra distance to get things done. Frequently I also bring passion and creative thinking. What I don’t have is the capacity to fight people. I don’t have the means to deal with a lot of ‘normal’ human behaviour.

I hate how this makes me feel. I hate the feeling of inadequacy that comes from not being able to deal with more abrasive environments. I hate not having the emotional resources to face down someone who is being sexist, or unreasonably demanding, or domineering. I hate having to ask for help dealing with more challenging workspaces. I hate having to say to people that I know I am too fragile to do something.

I also know that mental health is fragile. We’re all breakable. We can all be ground down by too much pressure, by inhuman treatment, unreasonable demands, constantly shifting goal posts and toxic environments. There’s so much mental health crisis in the world today and it is in no small part because we insist on maintaining toxic workspaces. There is shame in saying ‘I can’t take this’ and so often the feeling that you should be able to, and that not being tough enough to handle the poison is your failing, not the failing of your situation.

I am too fragile for this. I hate being too fragile. I will however, keep talking about it, keep owning the shame I feel and the difficulty I experience. I don’t want to work in environments where any sensitivity gets you labelled a snowflake and treated dismissively, or further bullied for being in trouble. I know it isn’t necessary. There is no job, no working arrangement where efficiency is improved by giving people a hard time. There is no job where bullying makes people better at what they do, and having to fight every inch of the way ups your creativity. It’s a rather nasty myth that keeps certain spaces in the hands of the most aggressive and toxic people. Politics being a very obvious example of this.

If you can’t stand the heat, there’s something wrong with the kitchen.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

12 responses to “Work and mental health

  • druidcat

    I always found myself running up against the belief that it was ME who was wrong for not being able (or wanting) to tolerate such behaviour. When actually, toxic and disrespectful behaviour is the problem…

  • pr0m3th3us42

    This is the reason that I feel like I’m unemployable as of late. I have an MBA and I’ve been working on learning and practicing accounting for nearly 15 years, but since I have a mental illness (depression) and can’t handle the pressure of a pushy boss, I get labeled as unemployable. I hate it as well. Creative, sensitive people need to feel like they are productive too. However, I am starting to come to the conclusion that my worth is not based on my productivity. I’m worthwhile as a human being and my inability to function “normally” does not mean that I am any less worthwhile.

    Thank you for stating this more elegantly than I.

    • Nimue Brown

      I’ve found self employment makes the depression easier to work around, easier to hide when I need to and to manage what it does to my energy levels. working freelance for reasonable people has been ok, but I’ve got into trouble with how I’ve been run on a few occasions now.

  • Aspasía S. Bissas

    I can relate so much to this. I keep telling myself there’s nothing wrong with being sensitive, but it’s amazing how many people disagree (including family members, never mind coworkers).

  • Christopher Blackwell

    Why should anyone feel guilty, or a shamed for their limits. I am bipolar, fortunately for me, it can be helped by medication.That is not always the case for all bipolar people.

    I am down to one eye that I can still read with, and that may fade in time. So the last new purchase I made was for a curved 27 inch monitor. It is great for watching movies, but it will also be great as I have to keep increasing the font to take part on the Internet.

    I can hear only with one ear even with a hearing aid. That too may fade over time.

    I can’t drive as I may go unconscious wkile driving. I did that twice leading to messy wrecks. That was backin 2000.

    I am increasingly unstable in balance. So step stools and ladders are far to dangerous for me. Same goes for trying to climb up on anything. Inside my shop I can still get around without my walker, but outside I have real limits about how far I can go using my walker. I can remember when I could walk three miles using my walker, then when it was two miles, but now even a mile is about out of my reach.

    There is nothing that I can still smell. Probes up my nose show everything looking normal, I just cannot smell anything. If my propane heater went out I would not smell the leaking propane.

    I taste barely anything, after all half of taste is smell. So taste has little to do with eating any more. So now it is different textures that get my attention.

    I can choke on food the liner cells in my esophagus are changing to columnar cells that you would expect to see in the colon. Choking may get worse over time, it is a nuisance. However with any cellar change, we must watch to see if it becomes precancerous. Also add nodules in the lungs to keep a check on.

    My stomach appears to be trying to go up with my lungs as well. So basically I stay on m land 24 hours a day except for two our three hours of shoping when my driver can give me a ride.

    So each time I go for medical care I get to learn more fascinating medical terminology. But I don’t get too worked up over, I still read my books while I can,go on the internet, watch my DVD movies, though they do get a bit blurrier. I use close captioning with my movies if the sound is not good enough for me to hear.

    I still live on my own, run my little shop and entertain the people who cross my doorway. I still can joke about the oddites of my life, including the limitations, and I still can give encouragement to people of various ages. Still put out my 18 pounds of bird seed so the wild life is right in front of my window to give me laughs. Put out water twice a day. It still takes fifteen minutes to get around to change my various open and closed signs . I am still very much alive.

    Getting older starts with excitement, becomes worrisome, and then becomes amazement at still being here. I am at that last stage.

    • Nimue Brown

      thank you for sharing this, it is a really powerful perspective on things. As for why the guilt or shame – for me it’s about having been treated as shameful, or lazy, or useless on many occasions. I don’t know if that’s something i can put down – I’d like to, but it goes deep for me.

  • lornasmithers

    Ditto. I can’t do conflict with other humans in the real or virtual worlds either and find it really tough to stand up for myself. I’ll admit to avoidance behaviour but it’s the only way by which I can protect myself. That said, I managed to say ‘no’ to going into work when rung up on days off on two consecutive days after already working double my contracted hours. Learning to say ‘no’ is something I’m steadily getting better at as a plan for survival.

  • ReadySteadyBreathe

    You are enough you are more than enough. Sometimes we have different strengths and weaknesses than others and that is what makes us incredible individuals, I myself struggle with a similar thing to you and often find it hard to work without taking time off for my mh. I am currently back studying to be a counsellor and out of work and taking that time to work on me does wonder for yourself. Have a read at my blog posts about it xx

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